"In this splendid book, one of America's masters of nonfiction takes us home--into Hometown, U.S.A., the town of Northampton, Massachusettes, and into the lives of the people who live there. It is a place of startling complexity. Weaving together compelling stories of individual lives, delving into a rich and varied past, moving among all the levels of Northampton's social hierarchy, Kidder finds a great diversity contained within the town's narrow boundaries."
This could be the story of any Main Street, USA town - wars on drugs and the homeless; town hall meetings; protests and demonstrations; college students and skateboarding teens; the rich and the poor. Northampton has a rich history and has been the home of many famous people, including Sylvia Plath, Calvin Coolidge, William Cullen Bryant, and Sojourner Truth - it is also said to be the birthplace of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This is a work of non-fiction, but it reads like fiction.
Warning: Kidder loves words and he uses them profusely - this is not a book you can skim, so it may takea while to wade through.
These compelling snapshots tell a sort of mosaic of the town of Northampton. Tommy O'Connor's story is essentially the one that connects all the dots, and the other people involved have at least some relationship with him when first introduced, though Kidder gives us more of their story than Tommy could have known from their interactions. Though he's never present as an "I," Kidder's presence is felt as the listening ear for Tommy in the cop car or Alan Scheinman explaining how OCD took over his life. Interspersed in these vignettes are stories from the history of the town, and as a result of the United States, and a glimpse of a small town still existing in today's busy society. The book is about fifteen years old, but I could recognize the town that I've visited several times myself in its pages.